The role of the first spouse, which for an unbroken span of 227 years has been a First Lady, is a strange one. After spending a year slogging through the primary and general campaigns, their reward is to lose any reasonable expectation of a private life and give up their career.
Over the course of the next four to eight years, they manage a staff, maintain a chaotic social calendar, and adopt a particular cause or set of causes that will become their flagship and legacy—all for no pay.
It is a bizarre and decidedly gendered kind of career trajectory.
And 46% of people between the ages of 18 and 35 wouldn’t have it any other way, according to a new Fusion poll on young people’s attitudes about the role of the next first spouse. (Fusion conducted telephone interviews with a random national sample of 910 18- to 35-year-olds to get these numbers.)
The traditionalists are essentially matched by the 44% of respondents who said that the next first spouse—be it Bill Clinton or, increasingly less plausibly, Melania Trump—should take a more active policy role.
Democratic respondents were more open to having the next first spouse involved in policy, with 54% reporting that they’d like to see the role move in that direction compared to 38% who prefer they stick to things like planning menus and attending state dinners with bae.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, young Republicans and self-identified Melania Trump supporters were much more likely to back a traditional role than the general sample. (Sixty-five percent and 61%, respectively.) But here's what is surprising: Even conservatives aren't that excited about Melania as First Lady.
When asked who they would elect as first spouse if it were up for a vote, conservatives sided with Bill over Melania, 46% to 29%. (Republicans, a distinct group in this poll, were more inclined to back Melania.)
But respondents in every group were more likely to back Bill over Melania on the question of who would be a better policy advisor. All told, 56% of Republicans sided with Bill, a former president, over Melania.
Clearly, experience counts to Republican voters right now. At least, you know, when it comes to first spouses.
Read the full analysis of the poll from Langer Research Associates.
More on our methodology:
This Fusion 2016 Issues Poll was conducted by landline and cell phone interviews August 3-16, 2016, among a random national sample of 910 adults age 18 to 35. Results have a margin of sampling error of 3.5 points for the full sample, including the survey’s design effect. This survey was produced for Fusion by Langer Research Associates of New York, N.Y., with sampling, data collection and tabulation by SSRS/Social Science Research Solutions of Media, Pa., using its Millennial Omnibus survey. See methodological details here.